Posts tagged: Travel

So Much for That Idea

By , November 8, 2004

My mom and her friend took a trip from California to Washington, DC, via Amtrak. She loves riding trains; so do I. We have been thinking of doing this cross-Canada train trip thing together. I spoke to her on the phone today to see how the trip went.

Greg: Ma! Welcome home…how was your trip? Did you have fun on the train?

Mom: You can screw going through Canada on a train.

Amtrak’s slogan is What a Difference a Train Makes. They made a difference alright, just not the one they intended to make.

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Los Angeles to Atlanta – Day Four

By , June 21, 2004

At the risk of sounding like Steve Martin extolling the virtues of his favorite pizza-in-a-cup restaurant, I must say that Sonic Drive-In makes the best pancake-on-a-stick. It’s way better than anyone else’s pancake-on-a-stick, I’ll tell you that much right now.

On the topic of fast food, why doesn’t California have Waffle House?? I am by no stretch a fan of fast food, in fact I can barely eat the stuff, but I’d be down for Waffle House every now and then. I think that is probably because I really like waffles, and it’s hard to ruin one. As long as it isn’t a Belgian waffle, I’m happy. Add a cup of coffee, and maybe even a side of bacon, and that’s a meal I can eat at least twice a week. Three times if it’s a leap year. Okay, that made no sense, even by my standards. All I mean is that I like waffles, and I never knew there was a fast-food chain dedicated to them.

By the way, I am in Atlanta now. I knocked out the last 800 miles in one long stretch yesterday. I drove from Dallas through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, all the way into Georgia. That is five states in one day, and it puts me here a day ahead of schedule. It gave me time to see the sites. Here is a site:

Whataburger

Yah, a fast food joint. On account of that is all you friggin’ see around here!! At least Whataburger is an obscure one, but ugh! Okay, I’ll stop hating on Atlanta. I haven’t actually seen that much of it yet, and my fast-food-everywhere opinion is primarily limited to what I saw on the interstate coming into town.

The last batch of CDs what that I played:

Beastie Boys Check Your Head
Beastie Boys Ill Communication
Prince The Hits: Volume 1
Ash 1977
Ladytron Light and Magic
The Cure Galore
St. Germain Tourist

Okay, car is in Atlanta, time to fly home to California. I miss you Fizzy!!!!!!

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Los Angeles to Atlanta – Day Three

By , June 20, 2004

It sometime seems that each American city has its own particular vice. Los Angeles got “shallow,” San Francisco got “snobbish,” New York got “rude.” Well, Dallas clearly got “garish.” Words can’t describe the gaudy homes that line the neighborhoods of Plano, a wealthy suburb of Dallas, so I won’t try. Oh hell, sure I will.

My brother lives in the suburb of Plano, and as I drove to visit him I passed one ludicrous house after another, each almost seeming to top the one that came before it. They were all enormous. In Texas, that’s a given; every house was at least 2000 square-feet in size, and those were the modest homes. Some must have topped the 5000 square-foot mark.

I won’t be able to do justice to what I saw in terms of architecture, because anyone reading will assume I’m exaggerating. Victorian-style homes with faux Roman columns sporting a giant fountain in front topped with Spanish tiling? Par de rigueur. It’s as if they want to incorporate every over-the-top style of architecture into one massive estate, then repeat the process for every house on the block. The best, and most honest, description I can give is that the homes look like entrances to Disneyland attractions.

Other than that, Dallas is pretty neat. It is far too large to be explored in a day, but I liked what I saw. I found a great record shop, and bought some CDs. Should we be calling them CD shops? Honestly, I have a hunch records may outlast CDs. MP3s are becoming the standard, but there will always be vinyl collectors. I get the feeling that in ten years time CDs will be somewhat akin to cassettes, while records will still have a following. In any event, for the time I’m sticking to calling them record shops, even if I go there to buy CDs.

Speaking of music, I guess I should continue the trend of reporting what was on rotation in the CD deck during the recent leg of the trip:

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds
Pulp His ‘n’ Hers
Bauhaus In Flat Field
Count Basie Essential Basie: Volume 1
Suede Dog Man Star
Van Morrison Moondance
EPMD Strictly Business

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Los Angeles to Atlanta – Day Two

By , June 19, 2004

Many, many shirtless scrawny men sporting mullets, discarded beer bottles everywhere, bugs the size of a grown man’s thumb– yep, I’m in Texas.

A real live Texan girl tried to pick me up. Actually, she didn’t even waste time with that– she accosted me in the hallway and invited herself into my motel room. I politely declined, and she replied, somewhat sadly, “I guess you don’t want to get to know a southern girl.” I guess not.

I put seven new CDs into the changer today:

Radio Soul Wax Hang the DJ vol. 1
Radiohead OK Computer
Iron Maiden Powerslave
Moby Play
Lou Reed Transformer
Frank Sinatra The Capitol Years
Suede Coming Up

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Los Angeles to Atlanta – Day One

By , June 18, 2004

I am sitting in the lobby of my motel, as that is the only place in this establishment with internet access. The night manager won’t stop telling me the story of his life, so I will keep this short. I’ve already heard about his online love affairs. Now he is telling me about his sister being abused by another student while in the 7th grade. He was in 9th grade at the time, and beat the 7th grader up for that, he did. Kid sis had already popped out a baby by then. Nice. Years later the abusive kid came back to apologize. I have no idea why the manager is telling me this. He is watching The Hot Chick on TV while relating this tale; I don’t think there is a correlation.

I am now in Phoenix. The 400 mile drive from Los Angeles was fairly easy. I think tomorrow’s drive to El Paso is a bit longer, but I didn’t leave Los Angeles until after 8:00 PM, so that made for a late arrival. I’ll leave Phoenix much earlier than that. Why am I even typing this paragraph? This is not the sort of travel blog my readers demand. Permit me to shift gears.

Get it? Shift gears = car talk. I am enjoying the car so far. I think I’ll stick to my classic cars, but there is something to be said for this BMW thing. It makes for a far smoother, quieter, and quicker ride than would Tiffany. The G.P.S. navigation device can be disconcerting, but it’s handy and fun. It tells mw what time I will arrive, and if I speed up, I can watch my arrival time shift accordingly.

The fact that you I have 7 CDs in the player at once is nice, too. Actually, as neither of my cars even has a radio, anything that allows me to hear music whilst driving makes for a nice change of pace. Seven CDs at once is almost overkill.

The CDs I chose for Day 1 of the drive:

The Beatles Let it Be
Fatboy Slim Live on the Floor at the Boutique
Pulp Different Class
Beastie Boys To the 5 Boroughs
Blur Parklife
Thievery Corporation DJ Kicks
Joy Division Unknown Pleasures

Today’s Question: Who wants a postcard?

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Driving to Georgia

By , June 3, 2004

A few years ago I drove from New York City to Berkeley, by way of Charlotte, North Carolina. The drive was at times arduous, but for the most part enjoyable. At the time I’d only been to California, Nevada, New York, and New Jersey, so it was interesting and enlightening to see some other parts of the U.S.

Yesterday, a friend asked if I’d be willing to undertake a similar endeavor– she is moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta, but doesn’t want to drive her car out there. As the cost to have a vehicle shipped is significantly more than the cost to drive, she asked if I’d do the job for her.

Factors influencing my decision:

1. I’ve never seen Atlanta, and as the friend is covering all gas and motel costs, it’s a free trip.

2. I’m curious to make another long drive.

3. The car is a brand new BMW, the polar opposite of the sort of vehicle I drive, and a chance for me to see how the other half lives, so to speak.

I told her I’d do it, so on the 17th I fly to Los Angeles and start driving. I don’t know exactly how far I’ll make it each day, but I anticipate spending nights in Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, and Birmingham. If you live in any of those fine cities, let me know and I’ll honk the horn at you as I pass through your town.

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Peasprout Does L.A.

By , May 15, 2004

Tomorrow I’m driving to Los Angeles in Tiffany, my trusted vehicle. I’ll be in town for 8 days. If any of my L.A. friends are reading this, hit me up and maybe we can get together while I’m in town. I’ll be in Hawthorne, the Valley (Like, OMG), and various other places

As a favor to a friend, I am going to spend Monday night/ Tuesday morning camped out on Sunset Blvd. to get concert tickets. It will almost be like I am a homeless person. Except I’ll bring snacks.

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I Have Visited 20 U.S. States (And 1 District)

By , February 24, 2004

Here is a handy map depicting the states to which I have been:

create your own personalized map of the USA
or write about it on the open travel guide

Technically I have set foot in both Utah and Illinois, but as I was but stretching my legs during brief stops on a train-ride, I don’t count myself as having visited either state. I spent two hours in Denver during a longer stop on that same trip, so Colorado makes the cut.

The state I’d most like to visit? Probably South Dakota, as I’d like to see Mt. Rushmore.

Today’s Question: What state would you most like to visit?

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War and Fashion

By , November 19, 2003

The various wars happening around the globe are constant news items. When I read or hear reports concerning them, I am struck by the differences between our modern conflicts and those of the recent past. Apparently, not only were films in black & white, dresses longer, and music more swingin’ in the 1940s, wars were different, too. Nowadays it’s not so much about stopping maniacal dictators from rampaging about Europe, laying waste to all in their path, and enslaving new populaces on a daily basis, as it is about preventing small, independent terrorist groups from blowing up landmarks and killing hella people. The times they have a’changed. What would FDR do?

Incidentally, I have been remiss in posing questions in my blogs of late. I’d like to think that it’s because I’ve honed my blogging style over the course of the past 10 months, and am now writing concise and coherent bits of prose that flow effortlessly from thesis to logical conclusion. More likely, I’ve just been forgetting. This time around I shan’t do so. Today’s Question: If you got to play maniacal dictator for a day, what country would you most like to conquer?

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Return from New York

By , October 21, 2003

My oldest brother used to live in New York, and during my high school and college years I’d visit him perhaps once a year. I’d stay with him for anywhere between one to five weeks at a time, and in doing so got a pretty solid feel for what life was like in the so-called Big Apple. He moved; until this month, except for a brief day trip last year, I’d not been back in several years. New York has changed substantially in my absence.

New York City in 2003 has become somewhat homogenized. It’s still New York, and it still has a lot of the mystique and character that has always made it special, but not as much as before. There is now a Starbucks on nearly every corner (some corners have four!), and all the suburban chains dominate the landscape. Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Olive Garden, Staples, and their ilk are omnipresent, just as in any other major city. It’s a shame. New York City always seemed so immune to that. Is it really true that all good things must come to an end?

An example? Grand Central Station– it’s now a mall. A real, honest-to-god, California-style, shopping mall with a Banana Republic and everything. Am I wrong to say that that is, well, wrong? And Times Square? Not that I necessarily miss the hookers that fondled me and and the crack dealers that solicited to me when I was 14, but maybe I’d be okay with at least a hobo or two. Am I really asking for too much from my Manhattan Experience?

Unsolicited & Biased Advice for Travelers to New York City

Be forewarned– New York City is the capitol city of hype. With more than 8 million people there, not counting visitors, there is a built-in audience for anything. Restaurants especially don’t need to be good, they just need a gimmick or a moment of fame, after which people will flock to their doors, giving them the reputation of “best fill-in-the-blank” in the city. The Magnolia Bakery is the perfect example. They sell a very average cupcake and no one cared about them; they were mentioned on Sex in the City and the line has been out the door ever since.

Even restaurants that aren’t given shout-outs by celebrities can thrive here, regardless of quality. In other cities, there are more restaurants and storefronts than there are customers to fill them, and competition is fierce. In Manhattan it is exactly the opposite: demand exceeds supply by a vast margin. Manhattan may be the only place on the world where the quality of the product is immaterial– an establishment can draw people simply by existing. Having cleared that up, allow me to tell you about some of the places we ate, shopped, and saw while on our trip.

Eating

The Corner Bistro (331 W. 4th @ Jane) Some say it’s the best burger in New York, maybe it is, maybe not. It is a pretty good burger, and if they used a better cut of meat it would be excellent. The menu is limited to hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken sandwich, and french fries, so vegetarians be forewarned.

Lombardi’s Pizza (32 Spring Street) Pretty darn yummy pizza, on par with Arinell Pizza here in Berkeley. Done in a coal oven, for what that’s worth.

Katz’s Delicatessen (205 East Houston Street) It’s been around since 1888, it’s where Meg Ryan faked her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally, and it’s an authentically Jewish New York style deli. I loved the sandwich I ate there, although the meat-to-bread ratio is a bit skewed in the favor of the meat.

Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker Street) Average baked goods, average cupcakes, long line. You can get as good or better fare at any bakery.

Hungarian Pastry Shop (111th and Amsterdam) Apparently famous, pretty good pastries and coffee, somewhat crowded, with a pleasant atmosphere. I went there twice, as it was a convenient spot for breakfast, being literally around the corner from where I stayed. It is reported to be in an upcoming film called “P.S.” so the crowds may grow.

Pastis (Little West 12th @ Ninth Avenue) A little tricky to find. It is in the attractively-named Meat Packing District, and it’s worth hunting down. It’s a great French bar/cafe/restaurant. I had steak tartare and it was perfect. I also had a steak sandwich…also superb. Go there!

Teany (Not Sure) I didn’t go, but I was told it was fun. Moby’s tea shoppe, or some such thing. I doubt he is there waiting on tables, but hey, it’s supposed to be neat anyway. You go and tell me.

Soup Kitchen International (259-A West 55th Street) Another place I didn’t go, but worth mentioning. This is the famous “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld fame. Which reminds me:

Tom’s Restaurant (112th and Broadway) I ate there because it’s the closest diner to where I stayed, but as I mentioned in a prior post, it is the Seinfeld Diner, as well as the Suzanne Vega diner. The food is decent, and it’s open late, but not worth going out of your way to visit, unless you want to go because of its fame.

Shopping

Catherine Memmi (45 Greene Street) neat modern furniture

J. Lindeberg (126 Spring Street) Clothing from Stockholm that is over-priced but sleek-looking. Were I a person who shopped, I might shop here.

Jonathan Adler (465 Broome Street) Nothing too crazy, but cute stuff.

Colony Music Center (1619 Broadway) One of my regular NY haunts. This is a great music store, with a selection that includes all sorts of new music, as well as possibly the world’s best (not kidding) selection of karaoke CD-G discs. I found my friend and future band-mate Tracy a karaoke version of a song she’d been seeking forever. PLUS…they sell a huge assortment of incredible vintage stuff. Old music and TV trading cards, memorabilia, and more stuff then I can describe. It’s like going to a museum of pop culture where you can buy the exhibits. I strongly suggest visiting this store.

Tutu (55 Spring Street) One of many cute boutiques along this street, but one worth peeking into.

Prada (Prince & Broadway) The architecture and design inside is breathtaking. There is no sign outside, so you just kind of have to know it’s the Prada store. If you like stylized architecture, this store is worth hunting down, though you have to tolerate the shoppers who are actually there to buy Prada items.

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